The Ultimate Wedding Crasher: Planning a Dream Wedding During the Pandemic

By Carrie Gale

When my daughter Hillary was born, I dreamt of the day she would walk down the aisle and marry her soulmate. I couldn’t wait to plan the reception, help her pick out her wedding dress, the flowers, the cake and all the little details which make that day so special.

We all know every wedding will have at least one forgotten detail, unforeseen catastrophe, or God forbid, the dreadful wedding guest who can’t hold their liquor. I was prepared for that. But  little did I know, we would be planning a wedding during a global pandemic. 

My Own Wedding “Disaster”

When Jon and I got married, we arrived at the reception hall only to discover our DJ did not show. The young man who set up the equipment was dressed in jeans and a sweat-soaked undershirt and said he would be taking over the music. 

It was a complete debacle! He kept bumping into the turntable, played music at the wrong speed, and had zero experience running a wedding reception. Our dollar dance, which we desperately needed to fund our honeymoon, was abruptly interrupted as people were beginning to leave the reception and we had not even cut the cake. 

Jon and I were so happy to escape the fiasco and to this day, fondly refer to our reception as The Nightmare on Longmore Street. 

Due to our own wedding reception disaster, my only objective for Hillary and Shane’s wedding day was for them to enjoy the day more than anyone else.  As we began to plan the big event, visit venues, choose caterers, menu options, and flowers, it became evident that one unexpected guest had decided to crash the party….the ‘Rona.

Pandemic Planning: A Whole New Kind of Nightmare

There were times during the planning when we considered relocating the venue. We discussed moving the wedding to a resort in Minnesota, but realized that would create more problems. We  considered having a backyard wedding with immediate family or even cancelling the wedding altogether, but Hillary and Shane were ready to get married and move on in life. 

Covid was coming to the wedding whether we liked it or not. So we decided to press on and plan the best “pandemic wedding” we could.

Due to Colorado’s Covid-19 guidelines, the guest list was reduced to a maximum of one hundred people. We ended up having exactly 50 guests attend the wedding. It turned out to be the perfect amount for the intimate and personal wedding Hillary and Shane had in mind.

A Magical Day Despite Our Uninvited Guest

The venue Shane and Hillary chose was located in the beautiful Colorado mountains. It was October 2nd, with the leaves just beginning to turn a bright golden yellow. 

Hillary chose biscotti bridesmaid dresses accented with burgundy, orange, and purple wildflower bouquets. The groom and groomsmen wore beige sport coats and dark wash denim to match the rustic, mountain feel of the Colorado Rockies.

Our best friend Dirk officiated the outdoor ceremony and with a mix of sentiment and humor, he made it absolutely perfect. We were blessed to have some of our closest family and friends share in the big day.

As Jon walked Hillary down the aisle, I was overcome with emotion. Hillary looked absolutely beautiful in her gown and veil. Her Dad was beaming with pride but also holding in his tears… tears of joy and sorrow as he and I both knew this day would eventually come. We just didn’t realize how quickly it would get here. 

There is something magical about giving your daughter away to the man she loves. It takes courage, faith, and trust in them. As parents, you only want the very best for your children. You want them to be happy, safe and secure. You want your daughter to feel cherished, honored and loved. Watching Hillary and Shane exchange their vows, I knew Shane would give her all these things and more. 

The newlyweds laughed and danced the night away. Watching the pure joy and happiness on their faces told me all of our planning and decision to move forward with the wedding during a pandemic was the right choice.

We tried to provide the safest environment we could with Covid-19 in attendance. The cocktail hour and father/daughter dance were all outside on a beautiful patio. We encouraged social distancing, offered masks and personalized hand sanitizer as wedding favors, and let guests choose red, yellow, or green bracelets to indicate their comfort level socializing with others.

Before the night was over, people were out on the dance floor kicking up their heels, having a great time and genuinely enjoying themselves.

Later that night, Jon and I were lying in bed and talking about the wonderful details of the day.

Our greatest joy was giving Hillary and Shane a wedding day they would always remember.  It was a day full of love, hope, and a bright future for our daughter and our new son-in-law. It reinforced what we have always believed… No matter what unexpected circumstances or challenges we might encounter, there is always a blessing to be found…even during a global pandemic. 

Mom~ I love you but you’re fired!

Of course, this isn’t really what my 20-year-old son said to me, but it’s how I felt! We were visiting him last October in South Dakota. My husband, Jon, and I had driven 10 hours to see Grant and his football team play and I couldn’t wait to spend time with him. We went to the hotel where the team was staying and found a quiet table so we could visit. We discussed tomorrow’s game, how school was going, etc. He then proceeded to tell me about different ailments he was suffering from, mainly canker sores. Now, I am not a doctor, dentist, or a nurse but  I am a mother! HIS mother!  I immediately went into “Mom Mode” to offer any number of solutions… Mouth rinses, topical medicines, etc. He interrupted me and said, “Mom, STOP babying me!” I was shocked, stunned and most of all hurt! In my mind, I wasn’t babying him, I was trying to help him. I assumed he wanted me to “fix it” since he was the one who brought it up.

 I sat there quietly trying my best not to cry and let him know how much his words had hurt me. I watched he and Jon carry on their conversation and I realized this 6 ft. 205 lb. person sitting across from me was no longer my little boy. He was a grown man. He was in his second year in college and he didn’t need his mother anymore. How and when did this happen? Why didn’t anyone tell me that the hardest part of parenting was learning to let go? It’s not late nights with crying babies, or toddlers who are constantly throwing temper tantrums, or teenagers who don’t clean up after themselves… It’s suddenly realizing that your time is done, and your services are no longer needed.

After we left the hotel, I expressed my feelings to my husband. However, instead  of consoling me and being his normal, sympathetic man I had married, he actually agreed with our son. He said, ” he’s 20 years old and doesn’t need his mother telling him what to do.” OUCH! More pain pierced through me.  For the first time in my life, I felt irrelevant. I woke up in the middle of the night sobbing…. I love serving my family and being there for them. It’s what I enjoy most. And now, I wasn’t needed. I had been served my pink slip! Let go. Fired. Terminated and laid off!

The next day, after the game, my husband and I began the long trip home. Completely unaware that his wife was having a huge identity crisis and on the verge of a  major melt down, he started telling me about partners in his firm who were set to retire at the end of the year. They had been in his office talking to him about how they were no longer relevant to the firm and completely cut out of firm wide decisions and emails. They had poured blood, sweat and tears into this company and just like that, they were no longer needed.  I just stared at him. Finally, I  said, “This is exactly how I feel with Grant! I’ve been cut out and I had no say in the matter.” He looked at me, took my hand and said he understood. I felt a little better.

So, where do we go from here? I started talking with my friends, sharing similar stories, reading books, etc. It was helpful. I also started thinking about writing a blog. To this day, Grant has no idea I had a complete irrational melt down in South Dakota that night. Nor, should he. He was right. He doesn’t need me to solve his problems! (Did I mention he’s majoring in mechanical engineering?) He was just sharing information and not asking for me to fix it. This is my opportunity to step back, as his mother, his cheerleader and his friend… Let him navigate through life on his own. After all, my job is complete and I’m proud of the work I’ve done! It’s not easy letting go of something you’ve worked so hard on… but it is part of life.